We are the family you count as we walk past. Don’t think you are being sneaky or we can’t see it, we can, and so do our kids. We don’t really care though—we mostly all laugh about it. Having a big family becomes a part of who you are. So much so in fact, that my middle son went to the store with me and only one other sibling, and his biggest concern was, “What if people see us and don’t know we have five kids?” I go to Costco once a month to load up, and our cart is always overflowing. I get looks, people say, “Wow, you must really love Costco.” Well, I love to feed my family, and ensure we don’t run out of toilet paper.
I see and read a lot of articles or blogs where mothers are apologetic for having a second child or for the middle child getting overlooked. I am not one of those mothers. I am not sorry—not sorry at all. Basically, in this house, you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.
A large family is wonderful. I love my big family, and not just because I have one, but because I came from one and so did my husband. My extended family is huge and full of the most loving people. The benefits gained from a big family outweigh the cons. I will not be sorry that the oldest has more responsibility, I will not be sorry the youngest has so many people looking out for him, and I am definitely not apologizing to strangers who feel like we are being too loud at the grocery store.
Here is my big family top 10 list.
1. Are you a parent who hates playing imaginative games with their child? Are you about 20 years past hide-and-seek? Does playing dress up make you cringe?
Having a large family means you don’t ever have to do that (if you don’t want to). My daughter plays mommy, her little brother is the doggy, and her older brother is either the daddy or the grandpa, and they spend hours going to the store, the library, taking doll babies to school, and pushing each other around on trikes and strollers. The oldest two brothers can easily be persuaded to play a game of indoor basketball, soccer, or hide and seek. I get to sit there and smile fondly as they form bonds only built through playing with one another in this way, plus I get to pull out the camera and take pictures to show significant others later in life.
2. Cost efficient: hand-me-downs and season passes
Yes, hand-me-downs are just a way of life, but so what? I wasn’t going to buy a full wardrobe from Nordstrom, Hanna Andersson, or Boden. Kids outgrow clothes in just a few months! Why would I spend more money on their clothes than mine? Going through the hand-me-down boxes is like Christmas every season. That shirt of your brother’s that you were eyeing all last year? Guess what, it is yours this year! I am actually more willing to buy Nike on sale because I know four kids will be wearing it, heck maybe five if I can convince sister, otherwise it was gonna be Walmart or Target all the way.
Another perk to our big family is that when we go to the zoo or any museum it is far cheaper to get a year-long membership. Talk about great boredom busters year-round! Go once and now anytime we get cabin fever or need some fresh air, a family trip to the zoo or science center is available year-round.
3. We are a team
We are a team. This has been drilled into their heads since before they could even talk. Everyone has a part to play. We look out for each other. If we are crossing the street the oldest holds the youngest’s hand, no questions. If you are playing outside and younger siblings tag along you have to be responsible enough to make sure they don’t wander away.
Everyone has a part to play, and without one member the team doesn’t work.
There is a built-in leader, a funny one, one who cuddles, an athletic one, and one who loves to add a little bit of frill to everything. Each one brings a unique gift, a unique vision, and voice to our team. They are cheerleaders for one another. If there has been a friend making fun of you, a mean teacher, or no one to play with at recess an older one pulls the younger aside and passes down wisdom only gained through experience. The younger ones sense when something is wrong so they give a hug or draw a picture to try to help cheer up the upset sibling. They have learned already that even though they fight and yell at one another, they have each other’s backs, and if the world hurts then they can come home to the love and safety of their team.
4. Family is first and forever (plus, you aren’t gonna hate all of them at once)
We aren’t always going to be on the best terms with all of our siblings. We fight, we disagree and yell the loudest at those we love the most. So sure, there will be times in life when you aren’t speaking to all of your siblings. Guess what, if you have some to spare then you always have someone to text with, chill with, visit, or call. Plus, large families actually spend a lot of time together, so you aren’t going to be giving one sibling the cold shoulder for long. The other siblings are gonna call you guys out on it because you learn from an early age that you are a team for life, you are family first, and you look out for each other. Friends can come and go, parents will die, and sometimes marriages don’t last, but your siblings are always there. They anchor you to the past and hold your hand as you face the future.
There aren’t memes galore about downing a bottle of wine while helping your kids with their homework for nothing. It can be stressful for everyone involved. To be honest, sometimes I am stressed because I just don’t know how to do it. If they have to show their work on a math problem and 1) I am already not a great math person and 2) The way I learned is different, then this can lead to frustration on both ends. When this happens, it is only a matter of time before there is yelling, crying, and slamming the book closed. However, sometimes an older sibling will step in to help. At times it is at my directive, but other times they overhear the struggle and say, “Mom, let me help him because I did this last year.” It also works for children who need to practice their reading fluency. Younger siblings are great for this! They love to listen to stories and they love the attention from an older sibling.
6. Built-in friends and shared memories
There is always someone around to play soccer, basketball, they share a room so there are sleepovers, late night whispers and laughs every night. They have someone to bond with while cleaning the bathroom or complaining about their tyrannical mother. Yes, there is fighting all the time and the name calling can drive me up the wall, but they will not stand for it from someone else. It is the whole I can call my brother a jerk but you can’t mentality, and at the end of the day they actually enjoy just hanging out together. Another thing they love to do is talk about when we were younger, they ask us and each other,” Do you remember . . . ” and honestly, I don’t always but guess what? With all these other people around someone is bound to. Before you know it an hour has passed talking and laughing about that one time.
7. They learn responsibility, cooperation, and a whole host of other important traits
Maybe it seems the older ones are helping out too much, but we are a family and it is something I just expect. I believe I would have expected it no matter what. Some people will say they want their kids to be taught skills which will help them succeed as an adult and enable them to be great spouses or significant others, and I can think of no better way than being a part of a big family. It teaches leadership, patience, the ability to speak to adults, the ability to entertain children, cooking skills, cleaning skills, responsibility, sharing, and a sense of fairness because in a large family you do tend to keep track of what is fair so you don’t get looked over.
Everyone has to clean up, put away their clothes, learn how to switch out the laundry from washer to dryer because if not, well, you might not have clean clothes. Being in a wolf pack type family means they learn being greedy or name calling will get you kicked out of a game by other siblings who aren’t putting up with it. They learn imaginative ways to solve problems and work/play as a team.
When my kids tattle or whine the response is, “ You guys have to figure it out or we will, and you don’t want that.” If they disagree on the rules of a game we tell them they don’t have to play. That seems to be worse than either sucking it up or finding a creative way to incorporate their ideas into the game. This means we are also teaching them how to listen to one another and problem solve.
8. As a mother, I let it go
Imagine a kid using a whole bottle of hand soap on his hair during nap time, markers all over the walls and couch, attempting to help make breakfast by pulling out and busting the eggs and spilling all the milk, coloring the dog, taking off his diaper and pooping all over the floor, sneaking a whole bag of candy before you even wake up, tantrums in the store, escaping in a parking lot, hiding in the clothes rack at the mall, flushing a tiny plastic bottle down the toilet causing that toilet to end up being smashed to pieces in order to find what the clog was.
When you have a lot of kids with a lot of different personalities and ways to make trouble you get to experience this stuff more often than not. The insane and crazy barely fazes you anymore because you learn to just let it go!
Each kid is different, each kid has strengths, and I am not beating myself up for failing as a mother—I just get it now. Dishes are never all the way done, the words, “I am caught up on laundry” means there aren’t piles of clothes on the floor and the laundry hampers aren’t overflowing, but it never means I am actually caught up. (Bonus to this is that my kids will never ask me to wash their favorite shirt for the next day because I will literally laugh in their face.)
I know that my hyperactive child isn’t that way because of my parenting style because he has a brother who follows all the rules and sits still. If my kids fall, or get pushed or hit their heads, I know that if it is serious enough they will come to me. I also know that many times a sibling will check on them, without any prompting from me. If they want a drink of juice but I am in the middle of serving food to everyone, I say I can get it for you after I finish helping all these other kids or you can get it now by yourself. They learn to weigh their desires and needs. My kids eat food that has fallen on the floor, they might eat fruit snacks all day and nothing else, they may wear the same outfit two days in a row, it might be five days before I remember they haven’t showered in awhile.
Now I just—Let it Go.
9. Parenting = sexy husband
Let me say that nothing is sexier than watching your husband help the oldest with a problem he is having at school with friends or a teacher, to moving on to helping one with homework, to wrestling and laughing with the younger ones all in one night. I get to repeatedly watch him encourage, laugh, read to, play, and develop ridiculous games for the kids. I get to watch him pull the kid in need to the side and have a deep heart-to-heart. I get to watch him snuggle up on the couch at night with the kids. To witness his kids simply love and adore him is one reason why I simply love and adore him.
10. And the kids said . . .
Always having someone to play with.
Always having someone to share special occasions with.
More people to love and to love me.
It is fun to go places with everyone.
We encourage and support each other.
We laugh a lot.
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